[PHOTO - President Aquino takes stock of the year just ended and provides a glimpse of what to expect in the year ahead.]

MANILA, JANUARY 6, 2012 (STARweek) “2011 was a good year. If you look at our efforts in reducing poverty and corruption, there were successes.

“In reducing poverty, we managed to increase the number of people registered in the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

We were able to increase the budgets for health and education, enabling us to expand coverage for PhilHealth and to introduce kindergarten in public schools with 1.7 million enrollees for this school year alone.

These additional revenues became available because we revised significantly the way government spends money, minimizing corruption. And we have managed to allocate these savings to social programs without raising taxes.

“In minimizing corruption, we have been moving forward despite all the resistance.

We are bringing Mrs. Arroyo to a legal process to determine her guilt or innocence, which is not easy because there are too many roadblocks. But no one will deny that we have moved forward.”

Expectations for 2012

“While the external environment looks uncertain, we will be able to improve the domestic economy through tourism, which we expect to experience a boost after we launch the branding campaign early next year, and to increase agriculture investments and productivity in 2012.

These are labor intensive sectors where more people will be employed. Government resources are in place, and the savings we have generated have given us the fiscal space to accelerate spending on infrastructure. These three tourism, agriculture and infrastructure will be the drivers of the economy next year.

These are economic drivers that lead to inclusive growth. Hopefully, this will insulate us from whatever happens overseas.

“I also hope that next year, we will have a truly independent Supreme Court to allow the wheels of justice to proceed in the case of Mrs. Arroyo, free from any partisan considerations.” — Aurea Calica

Vice President Jejomar Binay has vowed to build more housing units for poor and homeless Filipinos in 2012.

Binay said he was able to prove in 2011 that he is a working vice president.

“We are not a spare tire. But I’m the vice president and we still have the president. What I have broken for 2011 is that I have proven that I am a working vice president. In 2012, we will build more housing units. We need to build millions of houses for the poor,”says Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as well as the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-Ibig Fund. — Jose Rodel Clapano

Unfazed by efforts to unseat him, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile remains optimistic that the new year will remain meaningful and fruitful for the Upper Chamber.

“We will continue our work in spite of the impeachment case filed here. We will continue our legislative work even if we have to work more hours than we have been working. The legislative function of the Senate will not be affected,” Enrile tells STARweek.

The Senate will again be in the limelight this year as it gears up for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona when Congress resumes session on Jan. 16.

Enrile, who is turning 88 years old on Valentine’s Day, remains the “steady hand” that rules the Senate, which is composed of a mix of administration allies, independent and opposition senators.

Enrile expects to continue a good working relationship with President Aquino this year despite recent rumors of a coup against his leadership.

“There’s no problem between the Senate and the presidency. We don’t have problem with that. The President can call me, I can call him. If I am invited to the Palace, I will go and I am sure that the President, being a former senator, knows the working relationships here,” the Senate president says.

“We have passed many bills. Some controversial bills, we have to study them very carefully, like the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. That bill is not easy you know, we must not rush it because we might regret it in the end,” Enrile adds.

Looking back at 2011, Enrile is proud to say “that our hard work for the past six months, especially the Senate’s very early passage of the national budget for 2012, is our best gift to our people.” — Christina Mendez

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. says 2011 was a challenging but productive year for the House of Representatives, which approved many socio-economic bills but also for the first time in recent years took on a direct role in the anti-corruption campaign of the Aquino administration.

The 284-member chamber has already approved on third and final reading a total of 46 national bills since the start of the second regular session of Congress in July. Lawmakers also impeached former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Chief Justice Renato Corona.

He said the reform process is not easy but House members must remain steadfast and focused on contributing to the task, to include approving important socio-economic and anti-corruption measures.

“Undoubtedly, we are navigating a stormy sea in our voyage towards rebuilding our nation and our institutions. Overcoming this tempest requires from each of us a matured and disciplined engagement, for us to channel our differences in affiliation and ideology within the means and processes provided for in the Constitution,” Belmonte says.

“Our performance in the past year and a half inspire confidence that we, individually as representatives of our constituents and collectively as members of this institution, can be relied on to uphold our statesmanship amidst intense partisan pressure; that we will never let our differences in opinion and beliefs enfeeble our drive to fulfill our common duty and remain loyal to the Filipino people and nation,” he says.

Belmonte says the House in 2012 would continue its role in helping the administration eradicate corruption while at the same time strengthen the economy.

“The House would work harder next year to make sure our country would be more competitive. Competitiveness is key for sustained economic growth. So that’s our goal,” he adds. — Paolo Romero

Supreme Court spokesman and court administrator Jose Midas Marquez spoke to STARweek on behalf of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“2011 has been a landmark year for the Court in the performance of both its adjudicative and administrative functions. Relative to the first, the Court has decided a number of cases imbued with heightened public interest, such as the one upholding the law postponing the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and authorizing the President to appoint officers in charge therein, as well as that in the Hacienda Luisita case. It has also resolved with finality the petitions assailing the constitutionality of the Truth Commission and the 16 Cityhood Laws.”

Marquez adds that the Court has been undertaking several reforms with regard to the Bar examinations as well as to speed up trial and the disposition of cases and improve the condition of the courts and enhance the computerization of the Judiciary. “It is also studying proposed changes to the Rules of Court, such as changing the role of the courts from being a neutral referee of adverse litigants to that of an active participant in determining the facts in a case. It is hoped that the needed changes to the Rules will be promulgated by 2012.” Edu Punay

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. likens 2011 to a blockbuster movie as people from around the globe keenly watched external developments, including the economic uncertainties in advanced economies led by the US and the debt crisis in Europe.

“If we liken 2011 to a movie, we can say it has (so far) all the elements of a blockbuster. We’ve witnessed suspense, drama, comedy, even some love-hate episodes among heads of state, and between heads of state and their constituents,” Tetangco says.

Indeed, this year has kept all of us, the policymakers and media alike, on our toes. “In 2011, policy makers principally contended with a RISK ON/RISK OFF operating environment. Vacillating market sentiment complicated policy formulation. In addition, shifting political fortunes made finding the appropriate policy mix more challenging,” he added.

Tetangco, a recipient of an “A” grade from New York-based Global Finance magazine and included in the list of the publication’s World’s Best Central Bankers over the past year, says the world witnessed the persistent structural frailties in the US and euro area that have weighed against global activity, the spread of geo-political unrest among oil-producing countries, and the devastating calamity in Japan. “The confluence of these factors has effectively stalled the global economic recovery that we gained in 2010 and that we hoped would continue at the start of this year (2011).

"As it currently stands, the 2012 global outlook has deteriorated,” he says.

For 2012, Tetangco, the first BSP governor to be reappointed for a second six-year term, says he expects a happier ending compared to 2011.

“The wheels of our economy are geared to help us weather the uncertainties in 2012. Hopefully, we will find that if we liken 2012 to a movie, its ending will be a happier one than what’s expected for 2011.” — Lawrence Agcaoili

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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